Yandex opens B2B big data division in Amsterdam and Moscow

Yandex, the Russian Google competitor, has for a while been quietly offering its MatrixNet machine learning technology to other organizations – CERN, for example, has used it to establish statistical relevance in its floods of physics data. On Tuesday, Yandex announced a more formal push into offering big data services to corporate and enterprise clients.

The company revealed Yandex Data Factory at the Le Web conference in Paris. Yandex said its technologies can be used for the personalization of recommendations, natural language processing, image and speech recognition, credit scoring, logistics optimization, demographic profiling and so on.

According to Yandex, these services have already been used by a leading European bank to crunch behavioral data, so as to match products to specific marketing channels in a personalized way. The firm’s machine learning and geolocation services were also used by a road management agency to boost accident prediction accuracy. All in all, Yandex is already providing big data services for 20 projects.

Yandex says it’s able to create various kinds of deep neural networks with MatrixNet, which is used to train ranking formulas, boosting the effectiveness of the learning process. The firm claims the cluster management tools in its Friendly Machine Learning framework make it easier to get into big data research by allowing researchers to “avoid dealing with distributed computing problems.” It uses proprietary technologies including Yandex MapReduce and Real Time MapReduce, and Yandex Tables, which is a big data storage and processing platform.

Yandex Data Factory has an Amsterdam office as well as one in Moscow, and also has data centers across various countries. The company also offers training programs for corporate tech teams and free masters-level courses for university graduates — it’s actually had a data analysis school since 2007.

The division’s chief, Jane Zavalishina, said in a statement:

Yandex Data Factory uses algorithms that Yandex developed for its own needs: search, traffic forecasting, ad targeting, music recommendations. But it’s not the ‘content’ of data that these algorithms analyse – rather, they analyse data interrelations – and so they can be applied in any industry: from banking to telecommunications, from logistics to oil and gas extraction, from public utility services to aircraft engineering.

GitHub gives in to Russian censorship demands following blockage

GitHub has agreed to censor some of what its users post, in order to mollify the Russian authorities. Russian laws forbid web content that refers to suicide – to protect children – and the country recently blocked the whole developer collaboration platform because someone had posted suicide advice on it and the firm had refused to take it down. GitHub said it would in future comply with takedown requests from regulator Roskomnadzor, but it would post the notices it receives in the interests of transparency. “Although, we may not always agree with the choices the Russian government has made, we respect the country’s sovereignty and recognize that Russians may have different cultural sensitivities,” the firm said.

These places were Instagram’s most photographed locations in 2014

In its annual end-of-year tradition, Instagram has released the places in the world users capture the most with the filter-friendly app. Last year, the big question was “Why is a shopping mall in Thailand Instagram’s most photographed place in 2013?” The answer had more to do with a Thai cultural proclivity towards obsessive photo sharing then it did with the mall itself.

This year the number one location is no surprise to anyone: The Happiest Place on Earth. Disneyland topped the list after coming in third the last two years. Other returning champions include Dodger Stadium (#8 in 2013 and #7 in 2012), Times Square (#2 in 2013), and Thailand’s Siam Paragon shopping mall (#1 in 2013 and #2 in 2012),

New entrants include Gorky Park and Red Square (Moscow, Russia), the Louvre (Paris, France), Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium (NYC), and Dubai Mall (Dubai, UAE).

Although international places have appeared in Instagram’s most popular list since its first version in 2011, their dominance in this year’s list suggest that Instagram is scaling beyond America, becoming popular enough in other parts of the world that foreign locations are photographed more than American landmarks like the Bellagio, Disney World, and Central Park (which were #4, #5, and #7 respectively on the 2013 most popular places list, but didn’t make the 2014 cut).

Without further ado, here’s the top ten list of 2014 with some pretty photos to boot.

Top Geotagged Locations of 2014 on Instagram

1. Disneyland, Anaheim, California

2. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California

3. Times Square, New York, New York

4. Siam Paragon shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand

5. Gorky Park, Moscow, Russia

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Friday night at Gorky Park Feel the heart of Moscow

A post shared by moskau1983 (@moskau1983) on

6. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

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Nu dar viena

A post shared by *Irma Straukaite* (@orobalionas) on

7. Red Square, Moscow, Russia

8. Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

9. Yankee Stadium, New York, New York:

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Blue Sky's for Brown and Maroon

A post shared by Chris Post (@chrismpost) on

10. The Dubai Mall, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Russia reportedly blocks blogs of terrorism analysts

Russia is reportedly blocking blogs that provide independent analysis of jihadi activities. On Monday the Belgian historian, researcher and writer Pieter Van Ostaeyen said his blog, which tracks Islamic State among other extremist groups, had been blocked in Russia. He told (U.S.-funded) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that this followed his embedding of an IS video. RFE/RL reported that various other sites by Western analysts covering the same subject matter had met the same fate, and that Russia had even temporarily blocked the video site Vimeo due to the posting of an IS video. Russia recently started cracking down on websites that make “extremist calls” – a policy that the U.K. seems keen to emulate.

Android antitrust investigators ask Yandex to detail Google woes

The Russian web firm has confirmed that it was asked to provide evidence in a potential EU antitrust case against Google, over its bundling of core services with Android. Investigators are also looking into claims of Google forcing manufacturers to delay or cancel devices using non-Google services.

Russia reportedly hits brakes on plan to bring forward local data storage mandate

Remember that crazy Russian law forcing any web service that handles Russians’ personal data to store it in Russian data centers? The one that’s annoyed the U.S. and may lead to Twitter, Facebook and Google being blocked in Russia? So that’s still happening, but an even crazier law, which would have brought forward the implementation date for this local storage mandate from 2016 to a few months from now, may have been derailed. According to an RBC TV report on Thursday, this bill has been postponed and may be entirely shelved – apparently the Russian aviation sector in particular freaked out at the impossible deadline for shifting its reservation systems, complaining that suitable infrastructure just doesn’t exist in Russia yet.